T H E H E A R T B E A T O F T H E I N D I A N C O M M U N I T Y
NO. 1 RANKING?
SINGAPORE, WEEKEND OF FRIDAY,
BLAST SURVIVOR IS INDIA’S
Mr Veera Sekaran’s determination to
overcome poverty and succeed in life
highlighted during National Day Parade
Urban farming leader...
Mr Veera Sekaran is the
founder of Greenology
which builds green walls
and urban farms and offers
REPORT ON PAGES 12 & 13
Singapore Press Holdings
(English/Malay/Tamil Media group)
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Indira Gandhi’s powerful aide
R.K. Dhawan dead
MR RAJINDER Kumar Dhawan,
once the powerful aide and confidant
of late Indian Prime Minister Indira
Gandhi, died in Delhi on Monday,
after a brief illness.
The 81-year-old, who married only
six years ago, had been unwell in the
last six months and had been in and
out of hospital.
Mr Dhawan was a witness to
Mrs Gandhi’s assassination in
His presence was regarded highly
and he was known to have complete con-
trol of who could speak and meet
Fishermen net prized fish worth
TWO fishermen from Palghar,
Maharashtra, caught a prized fish on
Sunday, fetching them Rs5.5 lakhs
($10,930) the next day, making it the
most expensive fish to be caught along
the Mumbai-Palghar coastline.
The 30kg-ghol (black-spotted
croaker) was caught by Mahesh Meher
and his brother Bharat who went fishing
in their boat. The fish, which is a
delicacy, is prized in east Asia for the
medicinal properties of its internal
Unemployed youth in Andhra
Pradesh to get monthly allowance
THE Telugu Desam Party in Andhra
Pradesh will pay a monthly allowance
of Rs1,000 ($20) each to unemployed
youth in the state.
The decision is expected to put an
additional burden of Rs8,000 crores on
the state exchequer, already reeling
under a huge fiscal deficit. The state
cabinet, however, decided to implement
the scheme for unemployed youth who
hold a degree or diploma and are aged
between 22 and 35.
Bengaluru civic body bans
hoardings, flexi billboards
THE Bengaluru civic body has set a
15-day deadline to remove all illegal
hoardings, flexi billboards and posters
in a bid to beautify the “garden city”.
Those who do not comply with the new
rule will be fined or jailed.
“The banners and buntings not only
obstruct free traffic movement but are
also causing damage to the aesthetic
beauty of the city, resulting in
environmental hazards,” the city’s civic
body commissioner N. Manjunatha
Prasad said. The civic body authorities
have removed over 20,000 banners in
the past few days.
New software to assess driving
skills in Rajasthan
THOSE taking their driving test in
Rajasthan will have their skills
approved by a software instead of an
examiner. Driving licences will also
be generated using new technology.
A DNA India report noted that this
will prevent people from forging
licences. The service will start in
13 districts before being implemented
in the whole state.
Regional transport officer Kalpana
Agrawal said: “Now, getting licences
made will not be easy. Only the
perfect drivers will be able to get it.”
Uttarakhand to come up with
adventure sports policy
THE Uttarakhand government is
preparing a draft policy to promote
adventure sports in the state.
The policy will detail guidelines for
conducting adventure sports as well
as the quality standards for
Tourism Secretary Dilip Jawalkar
said this move will ensure promotion
of adventure sports.
August 10, 2018
ENS of thousands of emo-
tionally charged people
from all over Tamil Nadu
paid homage to Dravida
Munnetra Kazagham (DMK) pa-
triarch Muthuvel Karunanidhi
on Wednesday even as his party
won a legal battle over the state
government to have his body
buried at the Marina Beach in
Led by Governor Banwarilal
Purohit, Chief Minister K.
Palaniswami and DMK leaders,
people from all walks of life filed
past the mortal remains of
Mr Karunanidhi at the Rajaji
Hall. But the early part of the day
saw a legal battle at the Madras
High Court on where the
94-year-old, who died on Tues-
day evening, should be buried.
The DMK wanted him in-
terred near the seafront memo-
rial of party founder and Mr
Karunanidhi’s mentor C. N. An-
nadurai. The ruling All India
Anna Dravida Munnetra
Kazhagam government late on
Tuesday rejected the request and
asked the DMK to bury Mr
Karunanidhi on Sardar Patel
Road which is home to memori-
als dedicated to C. Ra-
jagopalachari and K. Kamaraj.
A High Court bench compris-
ing Acting Chief Justice Hulu-
vadi G. Ramesh and Justice S.S.
Sundar turned down the argu-
ments of the state government
and instructed that Mr
Karunanidhi’s body be buried at
DMK cadres and leaders as-
sembled at Rajaji Hall erupted in
joy on hearing the news. An emo-
tional M.K. Stalin, DMK’s
working president and
Mr Karunanidhi’s son, broke
down on hearing the news and so
did top party leaders including
Ms M. Kanimozhi, who is also Mr
While West Bengal Chief Min-
ister Mamata Banerjee flew into
Chennai on Tuesday night, a host
of national leaders, including
Prime Minister Narendra Modi,
arrived on Wednesday to attend
the last rites.
Mr Karunanidhi, Tamil
Nadu’s five-time chief minister
and leader of the DMK for 50
years, breathed his last owing to
age-related ailments in a private
hospital in Chennai.
An outspoken atheist in a
country where politicians often
trumpet their piety, he built his
political machine as a crusader
for social justice, with policies
aimed at helping those at the bot-
tom of India’s rigid Hindu caste
hierarchy. His death comes less
than two years after that of his bit-
ter rival, actress-turned-politi-
cian J. Jayalalithaa, leaving a po-
litical void in the state.
“His understanding of policy
and emphasis on social welfare
stood out,”Mr Modi tweeted.
India’s two national parties,
Mr Modi’s ruling Bharatiya
Janata Party and the opposition
Congress, have little presence in
Tamil Nadu, a state of nearly 70
million people where politics
have been dominated by the
DMK and Ms Jayalalithaa’s
Mr Karunanidhi, who always
appeared in public with dark
glasses and a yellow shawl
draped on a shoulder, was
known for his sharp wit, com-
mand of the Tamil language and
populist schemes for those at the
bottom of society.
Supporters on Twitter remi-
nisced about how his scheme to
offer free education to first-gener-
ation graduates had helped
them. He was known for drawing
foreign investors to India’s sec-
ond largest state economy and
oversaw the state becoming an in-
Mr Karunanidhi, who wrote
scripts for Tamil cinema before
entering politics, is survived by
his two wives and six children.
Indo-Asian News Service, Reuters
The unfurling of the tricolour
on the occasion of
71st Anniversary of India’s Independence
will take place at
0900 hrs on 15 August, 2018 (Wednesday)
High Commission of India
31 Grange Road, Singapore 239702.
All Indian Nationals and friends of India
are cordially invited to attend the ceremony.
HIGH COMMISSION OF INDIA
at the Rajaji
at Marina Beach
after court drama
ORN into a large, poor family with
nine siblings, Mr Veera Sekaran
crossed many obstacles before he
could reach a position of stability and pros-
Along the way, his passion for nature
led him to pursue a career in botany. He
leveraged on that to build a successful busi-
ness in greening.
He has always believed that he should
give if he makes something, as he had
started with nothing.
So, he hires former offenders and opens
up his nursery to dementia patients and
children with special needs.
This inspirational Singaporean was one
of five heroes whose stories were narrated
in a short film that was shown at this year’s
National Day Parade. It showcased the dif-
ficulties he endured to progress in life.
A paper bag, a broken black board, dis-
carded chalk, a uniform large enough to fit
twice his malnourished body and shoes
passed down from his elder sibling and
tied together with raffia strings – these
were the bare essentials that he carried
with him to his first day in school.
He grew up in the Sembawang Naval
Base area. He had lost his father, who
worked as a road sweeper, when he was
five. Two of his siblings also died when he
His illiterate mother had to shoulder
the burden of running a family with seven
children. She worked as a domestic helper
to support them.
As his childhood was filled with depri-
vation, Mr Veera never owned a new text-
book or schoolbag or uniform.
As the 56-year-old recalled: “I wore
shorts which were like skirts and had no
money for recess, so I would sit around in a
corner watching other people eat.”
There were positive interventions, how-
ever, which dramatically changed the
course of his life.
A small act when he was in Primary 4
left a deep impression on him.
“My teacher, Mrs Chee, decided to do
something for me because she felt that I
could not continue without pen or books
or schoolbag. She got my classmates to con-
tribute whatever they could and when I
came into class one day I received a school-
bag, a pen and a pencil case,” he said.
After his PSLE, Mr Veera moved to
Naval Base Secondary School and then to
Victoria School for his pre-university
He was the only one among his siblings
to study beyond O Level and so had to take
up a number of odd jobs to supplement his
He worked as a coolie in a granite
quarry from night till about 3am and then
slept for a few hours before heading to
school. He aced his A Level and got admit-
ted to the National University of Singa-
However, he was discouraged by his el-
der brother from continuing his tertiary ed-
“There is no point thinking about going
to university because we cannot afford it,”
his brother pointed out.
He asked Mr Veera to look for a job.
Soon after Mr Veera completed his Na-
tional Service, he met a man by chance.
The lawyer happened to be from the
same neighbourhood where Mr Veera
When Mr Veera told him that he would
be giving up his place in NUS to start work-
ing, the lawyer insisted that Mr Veera
should continue his studies and promised
to pay his university fees.
With the lawyer’s help, Mr Veera de-
cided to take up botany at NUS.
After his graduation in 1987, he
worked as a research assistant at NUS and
later built his career in the same field by
working at different private and public sec-
Once he was stable, Mr Veera offered to
pay back the lawyer the $15,000 he had
spent on his fees.
But the lawyer said: “You don’t have to
return me the money. I have done my part
in helping someone in need. It is now your
turn to help others”.
Mr Veera equates his life to a river. “A
river never stops flowing. When it faces an
obstacle, it changes course and continues
to flow. It is the same with my life,” he said.
“I have faced many challenges and ob-
stacles. At those moments, life took me in
another direction and I continued my jour-
In 2008, he decided to started his own
business Greenology, which ventured into
urban greening on a 5,000 square metre
leased land at Farnborough Road, near
The company develops ideas and con-
cepts for green walls and urban farms and
offers horticultural consultancy services.
Mr Veera recalls borrowing heavily to
set up the business, which picked up pace
when he bagged a major horticultural
project related to the Singapore Formula
However, his joy was short lived as he
was diagnosed with Parsonage Turner Syn-
He was afflicted with excruciating pain
on his shoulders due to a rare nerve prob-
lem which affects only two among
But Mr Veera did not give up and built
his self-resilience and sought remedial
Doctors could only prescribe
painkillers and he was unable to move his
arms. But he found therapeutic remedy in
doing the work he loved.
His passion for botany turned out to be
his remedy. He designed his own exercise
equipment in his nursery and did small
work such as moving plant pots.
He regained his strength slowly. But all
the while he was doing research and devel-
oping ideas for his vertical green walls,
green roof, storm water management solu-
tions and urban farming systems.
Over the years his business has grown
steadily and he has been involved in many
major projects such as The Heeren on Or-
chard Road, Changi General Hospital, the
Cuscaden and Mediapolis@One North.
International companies have also
He later ventured into three other busi-
nesses, the VertiVegies, Greenologix and
VertiVegies specialises in urban farm-
ing, developing advanced technologies in
vertical intensive urban farming and im-
proving food security and resilience in
Last month, VertiVegies saw a mile-
stone achievement as it signed an agree-
ment with China’s Sanan Sino-Science
Photobiotech, the world’s most technolog-
ically advanced vertical farming company,
to build Singapore’s largest indoor farm-
The new state-of-the-art facility will be
set up near Lim Chu Kang.
Mr Veera’s life portrays his struggles in
the early years and how acts of care and
compassion, coupled with social mobility
and Singapore’s meritocratic policies,
made him achieve his dreams.
Mr Veera said that he never expected
his life would be portrayed in such an illu-
He was pleasantly surprised when he
saw the short film at the NDP Preview at
the floating platform.
“When I saw the video at the rehearsal,
I was moved to tears,” he said.
At this year’s NUS Commencement
Ceremony, Mr Veera was invited to give a
speech to the new graduands from the sci-
He delivered an inspiring speech,
telling them that great opportunities lie in
front of them.
Specialising in urban farming... (Above) Mr Veera Sekaran with Mr Zhan Zhuo, the CEO of Sanan
Sino-Science Photobiotech, and Mr Ankesh Shahra, a director of VertiVegies; (below) VertiVegies,
the company that Mr Veera started in 2014.
LAND scarcity does not allow for
practices to take root in
Singapore, forcing public and
private sector entities to research
and develop the most productive
ways for food to be produced
Though Singapore is heavily
reliant on food imports, it is also
crucial to be resilient against any
form of disruptions that may
occur to those supplies.
Thus, technologically savvy and
smart ways of food production
have been explored and methods
are being implemented.
The Government is facilitating
some of these processes and
helping the private sector to
venture into this industry.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary
Authority of Singapore (AVA)
announced in 2016 that all
agriculture land will be tendered
on 20-year leases instead of the
previously announced block of 10
years to allow farmers investing in
automation ample time to get
back their returns.
VertiVegies is a successful
tenderer in AVA’s recent
It was awarded two hectares in
Lim Chu Kang on a 20-year lease.
In its mission to set up
Singapore’s largest indoor
farming facility, VertiVegies has
signed a partnership agreement
with Sanan Sino-Science
Photobiotech, one of the world’s
most technologically advanced
vertical farming companies.
Once in full force, VertiVegies
believes that the new facility,
which will be ready by May next
year, will produce many varieties
of fresh, nutritious and
Taking a major step towards
mitigating Singapore’s food
security concerns, VertiVegies will
be using automation at the urban
This will make it attractive for
the young generation and open
up opportunities for local talents
to enter the industry.
The new state-of-the-art
facility will require 90 per cent less
water than a conventional farm.
It will also be 75 times more
productive than soil-based farms.
It is also understood that it will
use half the energy that is
currently required in other indoor
Veera leads technological
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